Cap Jazz Series
John Abercrombie
with NiteCap & "A" Band

Dates and Venue 30 October 2009 8pm | Capilano Performing Arts Theatre, North Vancouver

Reviewer John Jane

In a career that has spanned four and a half decades, synthesized jazz guitar legend John Abercrombie has never been regarded as a vital live solo performer. His on-stage demeanour is unassuming and low key, one might even say underwhelming, preferring his more flamboyant fellow-musicians to hog the spotlight. Nonetheless, his amazing dexterity and technical virtuosity has made him the “go-to guy” with many jazz giants whenever they needed a top session guitarist. His recording production, both on his own projects with the ECM label and guesting with artists like Gil Evans, Gato Barbieri and Billy Cobham has been nothing short of prolific.

As featured performer in last Friday’s concert at the Capilano Performing Arts Theatre, The native New Yorker was simultaneously follower and leader. Seated behind a music stand that pretty much hid his solid wood guitar, he anchored cohesive arrangements from his new CD “Wait till you see her” guiding members of NiteCap, a vocal jazz ensemble from Capilano University’s Jazz Studies Program.

The first in this set was a tune ambiguously entitled Jazz Folk that featured some stellar piano playing from Andrew Rasmussen. Next, Sad Song arranged for vocal ensemble by Réjean Marois – certainly was that; its melancholic melody was evocatively drawn out by young singer Caroni Young helped by some affecting bass lines from Ben Appenheimer.

Abercrombie’s structural dimensions and unique music process was clearly evident after the intermission on a selection of four tunes yet to be either recorded or titled. The guitarist must have surely been delighted with the back-up he got from his accompanying Combo Group that comprised of Andrew Rasmussen on piano, Michael Kennedy on stand up bass and drummer Cameron Stevens. These music students could hardly have expected to be familiar with these experimental compositions. It’s not music that fits neatly into the Jazz, Rock or New Age but defines its own genre.

The concert concluded with Abercrombie teaming up with musical director (and well known jazz musician) Brad Turner to lead “A” Band, the University’s instrumental jazz ensemble in some hard-swinging tunes that ended with Little Booker, a musical tribute to the late trumpet player Booker Little Jr.

© 2009 John Jane